SDN Conference Paris Notes 2011

19Jul11

I was fortunate to attend the Service Design Network conference  in Paris last month.
You can view the talks at this URL: http://www.service-design-network.org/content/media-1

Whilst many of the talks were excellent, below are a few brief notes about my three favourites which you should check out.

  1. I would highly recommend the talk by Craig La Rosa from Contiunuum. Craig shared a case-study he was involved with for Holiday Inn. It was an impressive project where they created a prototype hotel reception in a ware-house out of 25 cases of foam which they used for acting out scenarios with the staff. Better to iterate in foam than bricks! They are big fans of prototyping. They showed too an artefact that looked very much like a ‘design pattern library’ (used in interaction design) which they supplied to their franchisees to help them fit out their establishment with different modules e.g. breakfast area etc. His most salient point was for this Holiday Inn project which lasted 1.5 years was that 25% of it was design work and 75% of it selling in design concepts. Video was a format used a lot on this project to help create buy in.
  2. I also really enjoyed the talk by Julia Schaeper from the UK NHS where she shared some case-studies of co-design projects being done in a hospital whereby staff and patients collaboratively improved that patient and staff experience. Julia has the task of spreading design thinking across the NHS. She showed a lot of video footage of this work in action which was good to see. She stressed the importance of using terminology that makes sense to the participants and at the NHS they have developed toolkits (www.institute.nhs) to empower their staff to create change and improvements from the ground up. Staff are encouraged to think in a different way…the playing field is leveled and staff can ask “how can we do this better” and then act! To facilitate this it is vital that this approach is built into the organisational phiolosophy.
  3. I also really enjoyed the opening talk by Birgit Maher who talked us through the homelessness project in Cologne Germany, Gulliver: A survival station for the homeless. Using this case study she articulated 10 service design basics. I have seen this project mentioned in academic literature a lot and it was really great to see photos of it in process and learn about the details. It’s a really great project which consists of a drop in center for homeless people i.e. people who are not so comfortable with the idea of a home.

Some learning from other practitioners

I have translated my notes from this 2 day conference and have provided a summary of related insights I gleaned from discussions as well as some of my own reflections.

  1. Good service design bridges business and design. As designers we need to be focus on business benefits and be able to show value in terms of both financials and business efficiencies. The next frontier for service design is  being able to communicate it’s monetary value.
  2. The design thinker and the business thinker working together = power! Service design never works alone. Whilst facilitation is a core competency of the service designer, we are more than facilitators. We are experts in visualisation and design process which lead to outside of the box thinking.
  3. Service design bridges user research and strategic business interests. There is a risk that as designers we do too much research. Getting to know when to stop the research component for maximum ROI takes practice.
  4. Service design is concerned with both front and back-office interactions and processes simultaneously.  Staff need to be aware of the whole picture. It is important for middle management to be able to experience from the customer perspective as this is where the problems usually get solved. Senior managers do not interface with customers or solve front line issues.
  5. Include the staff in your research! What motivates them? How is accomplishment measured by, themselves, their peers and the organisation? The buy-in you will get from this from the people that deliver the service can not be under-estimated.
  6. Service design involves “sell-in” to your staff. Participative techniques can help with this and can assist with change management as well. There is a need for the design to be sold in differently to different levels of staff addressing the why should we change?
  7. Empower your middle managers to manage change. Provision of tools and infrastructure to enable change within the organisation is vital.
  8. Your customers’ experiences are largely a result of your staff. Often a service design project involves the change of the service attitude of employees and it is so important to hire staff with attitudes that compliment the organisation. Happy staff make happier customers. Staff KPI’s should include metrics for customer satisfaction e.g. customer retention over sales. Good customer service should be rewarded. Make sure you map your stakeholders as well and try and get the people closest to the top involved.
  9. Staff need to be empowered and not stifled by processes where they can not can not think outside the box and graciously handle exceptions. The way that exceptions are handled makes all of the difference. Staff need to be empowered to handle circumstances that fall out of the usual process.
  10. Understand your clients motivations for hiring you. At the outset of the project explore not only what the organisational aims are but what are the personal motivations of the client side representatives. Understand too their expectations from you and agree on some KPI’s for the project and associated metrics. Further, have regular meetings with your client in order to ensure they are getting what they need from you to manage things on their end.
  11. Speak the language of your client. It is really important to be able to have a shared discourse for your service design work. This is why frameworks are so important. Customer journey maps/service clue-prints become a language whereby everyone in the company uses them and thinks in these terms. It is so important to ensure that these frameworks make sense and are relevant and embraced by the people in the organisation.
  12. Visualisation is key to making services more concrete as a formalisation of the concept. A lot of service design is about communication and sell-in. Good visualisations of non-tangeible services is crucial for getting everyone involved on the same page.
  13. The importance of execution. How you execute an idea is just as important as your high level strategy in the beginning.
  14. User research should be fun! The experience of the research should be part of the reward. People who take $50 for research are often boring. Research is about building relationships so don’t treat your participants as idiots if you want good insights. Extreme users are usually very willing participants if you provide them with fun activities and create good relationships with them. Extreme users often provide the most meaty insights.
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